Reflections on Race Contest Winner

Photo of Karen Morales
Karen Morales
Jan 30, 2021

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Karen Morales has won our open writing contest on the theme of Reflections on Race with her piece "Beyond Instagram Graphics.”

Karen Morales is a high school student who is passionate about journalism.

Beyond Instagram Graphics

I am a 17-year-old Guatemalan born and raised in Kansas. One could argue that I don’t look like the typical Guatemalan or Latina. My skin color is lighter compared to the rest of my family and my green-blue eyes stand out next to my parents’ brown eyes. I have been mistaken as White multiple times at Mexican grocery stores and restaurants, but I had never really paid attention to it. My family even has an ongoing joke that I was switched at birth because of how many people think I am adopted. But, because I am a Latina that looks White, I’ve noticed things that others may not necessarily see. I am often treated as if I am White and I have, without a doubt, experienced white privilege without actually being white, whether I realize it or not. I also know that my parents have been victims of racism while doing nothing wrong.

For instance, I remember one time when my mom came home from Sam’s Club infuriated. At Sam’s Club, employees check customers’ receipts to prevent stealing. However, workers are usually pretty lenient and don’t actually count the items in customers’ carts. So, on this day, my mom was waiting in line to get her receipt checked. She noticed how the employee wasn’t actually counting anyone’s groceries, so the line was going pretty quickly. However, when it was her turn, the employee counted all of the items in my mom’s cart twice. She, a person of color, was the only one that was being treated this way. My mom didn’t say anything out of respect for the employee, but what that employee did made her feel embarrassed and belittled. Because of my mom’s skin color, the employee felt obliged to make sure she wasn’t stealing anything from the store. It’s little things like this incident that make America have a reputation of being racist.

So, what do protests mean to me? The protests that occurred all over the world to fight for justice after George Floyd’s death made me feel proud of my generation and my country. I felt a powerful urge to join the movement for equality, like many other people around the world did, after seeing George Floyd being inhumanely treated by the people who are supposed to make me feel safe. Although my parents weren't comfortable with me attending protests, I fought for people of color through social media. I would post content on my social media to inform my followers about the movement and how to become an ally. Social media is also an outlet to learn so much about racism in America that wasn’t taught in school. George Floyd’s death brought to light the sickening acts of racisms that still occur in society today. The video that went viral was just one of the millions of acts of hate that have been brought upon to people of color. Seeing pictures of protesters fighting for justice and equality made me feel united and hopeful for a better future. The photographs and videos captured at protests exhibited a powerful message for the entire world to see. Protesters demonstrated that change is needed and that the fight for equality will continue until people of color are treated equally and obtain equal opportunities as White people.

Being an ally means to go beyond posting an aesthetically pleasing graphic on Instagram. As an ally, I am expected to call people out when being racist and to support all people of color that I encounter. It’s important to emphasize that the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t a trend. Little things like having people of color in more books and movies will make America more equal. This past year, I have learned that my history teachers have only scratched the surface of black American history. I have watched books and movies to inform myself and I will continue to do so going forward. The fight for equality is not over and I will never stop fighting for what is right. Although this year has been the hardest year of my life because of COVID-19, I am going out of it as a more educated American who is so passionate about fighting for equality.

Reviewed by Library Staff